The first church building was a brick school church, designed by Mr Aston Watkins and able to hold 300 people. At this time the Franciscans at Waverley came on Sundays to celebrate Mass and Benediction but in 1885 Cardinal Moran transferred the Randwick parish to the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and on 15th November Fr Tierney celebrated Mass in the school church.
It soon became apparent that the school church was too small and plans were made to build a church and presbytery. The church was designed by the architects Sheerin and Hennessy and built by Eaton of North Sydney. In May 1888 the new church was opened with the name of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.
This building now forms the Nave of the present church, including the baptistry and the steeple. It was considered the most handsome church in Sydney after the Cathedral, being built in a neo Gothic style of brick with stone facings. A feature of the building is the stained glass windows, depicting the life of Jesus. These were all donated and were made in Tours, France in 1899. There is a particularly beautiful pair of windows on the south side, given as memorials in 1918.
Recently two old photographs of the interior of the early church were discovered. Taken before 1900 they show two altars, the second being our present main altar; as well the altar in the shrine and the statue of the Sacred Heart now in the right hand transept. At the back of the altar there are the stained glass windows that are now on either side of the sanctuary.
At this time in the late 1800’s Randwick was a fashionable and wealthy suburb. A number of the homes of this time have survived and are now being restored. In Milford Street, opposite the car park is the home of Sir John See, Lord Mayor of Sydney, now the Milford House Nursing Home and along Avoca St and down Alison Rd can be seen other large homes built at this time. So many generous donors contributed to the furnishing of the church. The old school church continued in use below the church and a stone presbytery, built at the same time as the church, was further down the site.
By the end of the First World War it became obvious that the church needed to be enlarged and Mr Hennessy was asked to complete the original design and include a new school building. The transept and sanctuary with the high altar and two side altars, as well as a sacristy were planned with a six classroom school underneath. Provision was made for three large stained glass windows, one behind the main altar and two in the transept. The windows behind the old altar were transferred to the north and south sides of the sanctuary. The builder was Mr J. Ptolomy of Concord, and the church was blessed and opened on October 2nd 1921.
Next came that striking feature of the church, the great Eastern window. This was designed by Alexander Gascoyne of Nottingham and was built and installed by John Hardman and Sons, Birmingham. The window was blessed by Archbishop Kelly on June 7th 1928.
The final major addition to the church was the Shrine to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in the north-east corner. This had been the dream of both Fr Treand and Fr Smith and is a memorial to them. The shrine was designed by Agabiti and Millane, later joined by Greene and Scott and built by Mr H.A.Taylor of Concord. The Shrine was opened on October 17th, 1937. At the same time Mr Taylor built the wall confessionals on either side of the nave. These have been modified over the years and in our newest renovations two confessionals have been converted into a Shrine to Blessed Mary of the Cross and a new baptistery.
In 2008, the 120th year of its existence, our beautiful church was renovated and renewed. The narthex was created at the entrance and the whole building was painted, repaired, given new lighting and a sound system, ready for another 100 years of the worship of God in the Randwick Catholic community.
We extend our gratitude to Parishioner Barbara Bowring & The Parish Magazine Team for compiling this information.